Friday, March 28, 2008

China's distorted, dangerous coverage of Tibet unrest: Dalai Lama

Associated Press
New Delhi, March 28, 2008
First Published: 20:42 IST(28/3/2008)
Last Updated: 21:07 IST(28/3/2008)

Dalai Lama says China's 'distorted' coverage of Tibetan unrest is dangerous

The official Chinese media has used "deceit and distorted images" to portray the recent unrest in Tibet, the Dalai Lama said on Friday, warning such actions could deepen tension in the region and lead to further violence.

China's state media has repeatedly blamed the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader for orchestrating the violence that broke out two weeks ago after days of initially peaceful protests in Lhasa, Tibet's capital. Chinese officials have harshly criticized the Dalai Lama and accused him of attempting to sabotage this summer's Beijing Olympic Games.

The Dalai Lama has dismissed the accusations and maintained his support for the games.In a statement released Friday, he called on China's leaders "to exercise wisdom" and discussed the danger a widening rift between the two sides could cause.

"The state media's portrayal of the recent events in Tibet, using deceit and distorted images, could sow the seeds of racial tension with unpredictable long-term consequences," he said. "This is of grave concern to me."

Tibetan and Chinese leaders describe very different versions of the dramatic events of recent weeks.

Many Tibetans call the unrest spontaneous and unorganized protests directed at Chinese rule in the region, while the official Chinese stance maintains that the unrest was "separatist" and meant to embarrass China before the Olympics.

The two sides also have different death tolls, with China's government claiming at least 22 people have died in Lhasa and Tibetan rights groups claiming nearly 140 Tibetans were killed. China's state media, TV and Newspapers, have run only images and footage showing the Tibetan protesters attacking Han Chinese on the night the violence broke out. There have been no images of Chinese authorities' subsequent crackdown against Tibetans. The protests, which began March 10, were the most-sustained challenge to China's rule in the Himalayan region since 1989. The ensuing crackdown by Chinese authorities has focused international attention on China's human rights record in the run-up to the Olympics.

After sealing off the Tibetan capital in the wake of the violence, a small group of foreign journalists, including an Associated Press reporter, was taken to Lhasa earlier in the week on a three-day government-organized trip that ended Friday. The tightly scripted visit was disrupted when 30 red-robed monks pushed into a briefing being given by officials on Thursday, complaining of a lack of religious freedom and denouncing official claims that the Dalai Lama orchestrated the March 14 violence.

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